Best of CLO 2009: #5
By CLO   
January 24, 2010
GM Jesse Kraai, Photo New York 2009 by Elizabeth Vicary
The #5 article in Best of CLO 2009 is The Grandmaster House by GM Jesse Kraai. Judges praised Kraai's insightful humor and his lucid and fluid style.

Jesse dominated Best of CLO in 2007 and 2008 , winning first place honors each year. In 2007, it was for "The East Bay Fight Club" while, "Tulsa Fight Club" was recognized as the #1 article of 2008.

In 2007, Jesse Kraai earned the Grandmaster title and was interviewed and on the cover of the July 2007 Chess Life Magazine. Kraai also represented the US in the 2008 Mind Sport Games in China and through the US Open, qualified for the 2010 US Championship. You can find instructional videos by Jesse on

The Judges Sound Off

Read more about the judges here

Not just clever, this essay is illuminating; we get to see the age-old comparison “chess is life” not-so-ironically played out.  The GM house!  What a thought!  The reader is invited into the house:  dishes askew and brimming with muck, the overall fresh clean appearance of “what used to be a crack-home,” only imaginable, personal interactions exchanged in favour of the more heady “communal study.”  We see the epitome of a group whose, in Kraai’s words, “meditations upon self-identity are viewed with the same indifference as the dishes.”

But what happens here is truly great:  each individual in the house is able to witness the talent, the clarity with which each move is identified, the wonderfully described “sigh” of intuition or understanding of a position.  Kraai humbly notes the beginnings of such a sigh developing within himself.  Naturally, with this insight into the GM-perspective, two things can happen:  1) awe, and then, frenzied motivation; and/or, 2) awe, and then a sour realization of your own limitations.

Kraai’s lucid descriptions, psychological insightfulness (his poignant axiom—“And the lack of a taught chess language inhibits the growth of chess wisdom”— I found both shrewd and a fascinating idea), and his utterly compelling prose—the metaphor of the sigh, the comparison between chessplayers getting stuck on a variation and “eight year olds massed around a soccer ball, drifting about the field as if it were a ouija board,”—make this my first, my very immediately chosen first choice.

Such self-reflection, and reflection on the mindset and abilities of GMs was welcome, welcomed, and hopefully welcoming to whoever decides to move to the fantasy chess palace next.  Some one with the superpowers of dishwashing, that is.- Jessica Martin

Jesse Kraai is a great chess writer. He's funny, his message is urgent and he manages to keep the article at a perfect length, which is admirable compared to some of the other nominated articles. His piece hits the nail on the head in many ways. I particularly liked the fact that he's not afraid to show the weaknesses of the project. It's easy to assume an ironic stance in such cases. Kraai prefers sincerity. The result is excellent stuff.- Arne Moll

Best of CLO 2009 Countdown
#5-The Grandmaster House by GM Jesse Kraai
#6-Kamsky on Match: "Life Goes on." by Macauley Peterson
#7-Abby Marshall on her Denker Win by Abby Marshall
#8-How to Score a Summer Upset by Matan Prilleltensky
#9- Adventures of a Samford: Friedel on the 2009 US Champs  by GM Josh Friedel 
#10-Interview with a Hall of Famer: GM John Fedorowicz  by WGM Jennifer Shahade